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By Dre Dee

The answer of course is that they are both important!  You can be flexible without being strong and you can be strong without being flexible, however, both of these scenarios will set you up to get injured.  It is important to find a balance of being flexible AND strong, especially in pole dance, which is one of the reasons I find it so challenging sometimes.

Honestly I feel a little weird writing this blog because as you can see in my pictures – I am not very flexible (yet)!  It’s something I have always struggled with – even when I did dance when I was young I was never able to do the splits.  As soon as I turned 18 I started doing strength training and cardio in gyms and have always been very strong.  The stretching I did was pretty minimal – obesity runs in both sides of my family so my priority was always to get my weight training and cardio in to maintain a healthy weight.  When I started doing yoga and then pole, I started realizing just how limited my flexibility is.  Unfortunately I have a full time job so it’s still hard to find time to add flexibility training in when I am already spending so much time doing interval training, yoga, and pole, but I am working on developing some flexibility programs and workouts (check out my Yoga Shoulder Stretching Sequence) and scheduling them into my weekly workout routine more.

A lot of my knowledge about flexibility and strength training actually comes from my training as a therapist and years of working with many different types of patients.  One of the areas I specialize in is strokes and brain injuries.  When a person has a stroke or brain injury, muscle tone is often affected – the person may have decreased muscle tone, which makes the arm and/or leg limp and flaccid, or he or she may have increased tone, making it difficult or impossible for the muscles to relax.  One of my many goals with this type of patient is to strengthen the arm if the muscle tone is weak or stretch the joint to increase range of motion if there is increased muscle tone.  In Cleo the Hurricane‘s Rockin’ Legs N Abs (which is a GREAT hip flexibility program – I mean have you seen that woman’s splits??), she talks about PNF stretches.  I was so excited when I heard her use this term because that’s a technique I’ve been using with my neurological patients for years.  For some reason it never occurred to me to use it on myself.

There are many additional techniques to use as well.  The more I learn and the different exercises I see, the more I realize that flexibility is just as much about strength as it is about stretching.  One key technique is to strengthen the opposing muscles to whatever area you are tight in.  For example, if your inner thighs are super tight in center splits, you want to strengthen the outer hip muscles as much as possible.  Fast, active range of motion or resistance exercises are most effective (for example, to increase range of motion in front splits , when all fours put an ankle weight on one ankle and squeeze that heel towards ceiling to strengthen your glutes.  This will help to increase flexibility in the hip flexor).

Here are some key points to remember when working flexibility.

1) Do not compare yourself to others.  Flexibility depends on sooo many factors – your age, your natural flexibility level, muscle tone, what types of exercises you have done in your lifetime, and many other things.  That being said, almost anyone can dramatically increase his or her flexibility level with proper training.  The down side – usually the more strong and tight your joints are, the longer it will take and the more work you will need to do.

2) Stay consistent.  Your muscle memory retains information from previous sessions and when you have too long in between sessions of working on that particular area, you can lose the hard earned progress that you have made.  You should stretch whatever area you are working at least once or twice a week to see progress.

3) Warm up!  It’s very important to be thoroughly warmed up in your joints before you try to stretch – especially if you tend to be pretty tight.  Properly warming up maximizes the benefits of stretches and prevents injuries.  You can check out my videos for warmup and stretching sequences for various body parts.

4) Flexibility takes time.  Be patient with yourself. Don’t force it.  Trying to force flexibility is a quick way to get injured which can set you back months or years in your progress.  Not worth it!

5) Breathe.  Using your breath is the best way to achieve maximum benefits from static stretches.  Try to relax your muscles during the exhales.  Take a deep breath and hang in there – it’s worth it in the end!

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by Dre Dee

No matter how carefully you warm up, or how much you stretch after you’re done with your pole dancing workout, you’re bound to injure yourself at some point while doing pole tricks. Although injury is inevitable, how you care for your injury can make all the difference in whether the injury heals or becomes an ongoing problem.

Here are some common issues strippers and pole dancers face when working the pole and how to care for them.*

1) Pulled Muscle (Muscle Strain)

Muscle strain is usually an acute injury (meaning the onset is sudden) and occurs when a muscle is torn. Strains are usually caused from stretching a muscle too far, but can also be caused by exerting the muscle too forcefully, such as lifting something too heavy or pulling too forcefully. In pole, commonly pulled muscles include muscles of the neck, upper back, and arms.

What it feels like: Pain from a muscle strain is usually present right after the injury occurs and is sharp. The severity of pain can range from mild to severe. In more severe strains, bruising and swelling can occur.

What to do:

– Rest the injured area for 1-5 days, depending on how badly the muscle was injured and pain level.

– Consider an anti-inflammatory to help reduce swelling and pain. Ibuprofen is a common anti-inflammatory and I’ve been told to take 600 mg in order to have an anti-inflammatory effect. Your dosage should be determined by your doctor as dosages can be different for different people. Generally, you should not take more than 2400 mg per day. Taking Ibuprofen with milk or food can avoid stomach issues that can occur.

– Avoid immobilizing the injury – gentle active range of motion and stretching with little to no pain is best. Be sure to move the injured area slowly and avoid movements that increase or cause pain.

2) Tendon or Ligament Strains

Tendon or ligament strains are generally more serious than muscle strains because ligaments and tendons take longer to heal. Tendons and ligaments connect muscle or bone to bone and have less blood flow to them than muscles do – this is why they take longer to heal. The length of time it takes for tendons or ligaments to heal obviously depends on how badly they were injured, where in the body they are located, and how much they are used during the healing process. Generally, it should take 4-6 weeks to heal if rested and stretched properly.

What to do:

The course of treatment for tendon or ligament strains can vary greatly. Generally, right after the injury RICE (Rest Ice Compression Elevation) is the best way to reduce initial inflammation. After inflammation subsides, alternating heat and cold, gentle stretching and active range of motion are best.

3) Wrist Pain

Wrist pain is very common in pole for obvious reasons, and is also a common symptom of floor work. To prevent wrist pain, remember to always warm up your wrists before doing any level of pole and stretch them afterwards.  Also try to distribute your weight evenly when placing your hands flat on the stage.

What to do:

Follow the RICE protocol as long as pain and/or inflammation is present (Rest Ice Compression Elevation). Depending on what is injured, it may take a couple days to a few weeks for pain to completely go away. An elastic wrist support is a good way to provide compression and reduce inflammation, especially if you have to continue using the wrist. Be careful not to leave a wrist support on for too long though.

One type of wrist injury is nerve compression. There are three nerves in the wrist – the ulnar, median, and radial nerves.

Compression of the ulnar nerve is common in the bottom hand in bracket or split grips. Tingling or numbness are usually signs of a nerve compression or issue. The best thing to do is to avoid movements that are going to cause further compression, follow RICE protocol, and give the nerve enough time to heal before attempting further activity.

Performing gentle wrist stretches and active range of motion may also help. It is important to have ongoing or persistent pain in the wrist looked at by a doctor.

For All Injuries:

Remember to take it slow as you return to activities and work on strengthening and stretching the affected area gradually. Once fully healed, it is important to continue to strengthen and stretch the injured area to avoid future injuries.

Do you have an injury you have a question about? E-mail me.

Also, don’t forget to check the site later as I add more info!

 

*Disclaimer: Always consult your doctor before taking any medications or following this or any medical advice. A doctor is the only one qualified to diagnose your injury and decide on treatment.